JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - The Saudi Defense Ministry allowed Iranian naval vessels to dock at one of its ports in the Red Sea earlier this month during a training mission, Saudi Arabia's Defense Ministry spokesman said on Sunday.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, longtime rivals for influence in the Middle East, have become even more strained since October, when the United States accused two Iranians of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington. Iran denies any part in the alleged plot.Since then, Tehran has responded to new Western sanctions on its crude exports by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, the neck of the Gulf that is vital for ships carrying the region's oil.
Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council group of Arab countries say they have readied measures to counter such a move and the United States has warned Iran it would react to any attempt to close the strait.
Saudi defense officials played down the significance of Iran's unusual visit to Jeddah Islamic Port, saying in a statement on its state news agency SPA the move was approved as part of a training tour "in the context of friendly visits".
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